Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


School Chapel Dedicated At Pinecrest Academy

By SUZANNE HAUGH, Special To The Bulletin | Published noviembre 22, 2007  | Available In English

As beautiful as Pinecrest Academy’s new chapel is, not until the Blessed Sacrament resided in the tabernacle was life breathed into the structure.

That’s what moved many like Rick Swygman, Pinecrest’s executive director, during the dedication Mass of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel held Sept. 15.

“It brought to life for me the power of the Eucharist, the power of Christ’s presence,” Swygman said.

Among the striking details of the chapel are a Stuflesser crucifix and altar of Carrara marble, both from Italy, and a Holy Spirit window inspired by the luminous masterpiece in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The chapel on the Legionaries of Christ school campus, an independent Catholic school which serves students in pre-K3 through high school, is dedicated in loving memory to Matthew Gerard Tollett, the late son of Douglas and Brenda Tollett.

Over 300 guests were present for the dedication of the chapel as Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue celebrated the Mass. Concelebrants included Msgr. Steven Churchwell of Christ Redeemer Church in Dawsonville, Marist Father Richmond J. Egan, Father Jose-Duvan Gonzalez of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, Father Joseph Peek of Mary Our Queen Church in Norcross and Msgr. Luis Zarama, vicar general.

Those attending entered a darkened building, passing through wooden doors and beside an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and a special patroness of Mexico, where the Legionary order began.

Thirty-three stained glass windows depict aspects of the four main areas—spiritual, academic, human and apostolic—the school aims to develop in its students.

Legionary Father Todd Belardi, director of the boys school, and Legionary Father Eamonn Shelly, school chaplain, anointed the chapel walls after which Archbishop Donoghue anointed the altar with chrism. Many, including Tom Hoover, Pinecrest’s business manager and the school’s liaison with those working on the project, remembered these moments well. Hoover and the school’s sacristan Cindy Cassandra, mother of 11 children, wiped off the oil after the archbishop consecrated the altar.

“This was a touching moment,” Hoover said. “Cindy’s movements and demeanor reminded me of the scene in the ‘Passion of the Christ’ where Our Lady wipes up Christ’s blood after his scourging. It occurred to me that Christ’s blood would soon be made present on this new altar.”

Immediately afterward, the altar was dressed with linens, candles and flowers. A triumphant trumpet blast sounded and Legionary Father Scott Reilly, president of the board, placed the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle for the first time.

Archbishop Donoghue noted in his homily the need humans have for “special places”—to eat, sleep, play or pray.

“Where we do what we do remains the most constant feature of ordinary life—and our lives are reinforced and stabilized by having purposeful places,” he said.

The chapel was one such “purposeful place,” he added, “ … a holy space in the midst of our lives.”

There is a “pull we feel inside, when confronted by the ups and downs of human life, to bring our thoughts and feelings to a place that is not ordinary, but rather, extraordinary—spiritual, not worldly—and even miraculous—a place where prayer, our prayer, can be heard, and answered,” Archbishop Donoghue said.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit—the Trinity—resides in this place, he said, and “They wait for us to bring our gifts—our joys, sorrows, worries, failures and triumphs, and everything that comes to us because we are alive, because They have made us live.”

Be thankful for this new “jewel in the crown of Pinecrest Academy, a school of Catholic excellence” the archbishop told those gathered, but most of all appreciate God, who shares “His love through Jesus Christ, our only Lord—who is with us, and within us, in this holy place … now and forever.”

Serving as a lector during the Mass, Elizabeth Kelley was 3 when she began attending Pinecrest and now is a freshman at Wake Forest University. The alumna and last year’s valedictorian recalled how all the students signed their names on the underside of the rafters.

“This chapel was very unifying for our student body,” she wrote by e-mail after the dedication. “I think it is important for our school to have a chapel because Christ is the reason for everything we do. We need a place to come to Him and thank Him, ask for help or even just to say hello. If we are taught to make Christ the center of our lives and of even the most minute actions, it makes sense that He would have a physical presence on campus as well.”

She remains impressed by the generosity of the chapel’s anonymous benefactor.

“The new chapel is absolutely beautiful and everything is of the highest quality. It is apparent that the benefactor believes in the mission of Pinecrest and he knows that God deserves the absolute best for His house. I love seeing Pinecrest grow.”

The project architect was Lyman, Davidson, Dooley, Inc. The builder was Cannon/Estapa General Contractors, Inc. The school worked closely with the American Resurgens Management Corp., where Tollett is president. The director of construction for the Legionaries of Christ was Darryl Podunavac, who approved much of the design.

While the school could use another building to accommodate its expanding enrollment, now at 835 students, the chapel was “not just a luxury. … It’s a vital part of our campus,” the school’s executive director said.

Like a number of those in attendance, Swygman, a convert to Catholicism, had never experienced a dedication like this. “It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”

Part of Hoover’s role in the process was to recommend furnishings for the chapel, sharing his finds and decisions with his wife, Jill, and their four children. He called the chapel “beautiful, perfect.”

“But something was missing. Someone was missing. When Christ entered the tabernacle, it was complete. It was finished. It was a home for God,” Hoover said.

The chapel is not an alternative to area parishes, Swygman said. “We’re a private school. Anyone is welcome, but it’s just a school thing.”

And you will not be alone if you come to celebrate the Eucharist.

“Now every morning we’re pretty much full with about 250 people for Mass at 7:10.”